Georgia team tops Warren Central in Mid-Mississippi Classic finale

Published 2:31 pm Saturday, February 26, 2022

PEARL — Through the first two weeks of the high school baseball season, Warren Central has been a lot like the late-winter Mississippi weather — hot one day and cold the next.

The Vikings have alternated wins and losses, but haven’t had two in a row of either, in their first five games. They wrapped up their run at the Mid-Mississippi Classic on Saturday with a 4-2 loss to Flowery Branch (Georgia) that was their second in three games in the tournament.

Flowery Branch is located about 45 miles northwest of Atlanta.

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“Typical Jekyll and Hyde right now. We’re seeing some signs, seeing some good things that we’re getting to that corner, but we haven’t made that turn quite yet,” Warren Central coach Randy Broome said.

When the Vikings (2-3) have been good in the early going, they’ve been very good. Among their successes is an impressive 6-1 victory over defending MHSAA Class 6A champion Madison Central.

When they’ve been bad, however, they’ve often hurt themselves more than the opponent has. They’ve committed nine errors and only scored five runs in the three losses.

Warren Central committed five errors, as well as a couple of wild pitches and passed balls, that led to two unearned runs in the loss to Flowery Branch.

Flowery Branch scored a run in the bottom of the first inning without hitting a ball out of the infield. Leadoff man Nick Linkowski was safe on a grounder when the throw pulled the first baseman off the bag. He went to second on an errant pickoff throw, to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a passed ball.

In the sixth inning, Kade Smallwood reached on a dropped fly ball and eventually came around to score to give the Falcons a 4-1 lead.

The errors spoiled solid pitching performances by Jack Wright and Seth Sterling. Wright went four innings and Sterling three, and they combined to allow four hits and three walks. Wright did not allow a hit until the fourth inning.

“Any time you’ve got three more errors on the board, your chances of winning are not going to be very good,” Broome said. “At the end of the day it might still have came out the same way this one did, but it might have been a little closer at the end.”

Warren Central’s hitting has been similarly up-and-down in the early part of the season. It scored 13 runs in wins over Madison Central and Ocean Springs, but only five in its losses.

Floyd Davenport singled and scored on another base hit by Seth Sterling in the top of the first inning against Flowery Branch, but Falcons pitcher Mason Compton retired 17 of the next 20 batters.

Warren Central’s second run did not come until the seventh inning, when Kylan Landers hit a double and scored on a two-out single by pinch-hitter Cade Fairley. One runner was thrown out on the basepaths and another was stranded at third base.

Compton finished with eighth strikeouts. Warren Central’s batters have struck out 50 times in the first five games.

“Things we worked on offensively, we need to get back to our better approach. We’re hitting backward, swinging at breaking balls and taking fastballs,” Broome said. “We’ve got to have some more balls in play in key situations for us. We have done that at times, but we didn’t do it very well today.”

The Vikings have shown enough promise during their high points this season that Broome is not about to press the panic button. He noted that most of the teams they’ve played have been quality opponents, so some setbacks come with the territory. In addition to Madison Central, West Marion reached the Class 3A quarterfinals in 2021 and Germantown was a Class 6A playoff team.

“It’s a pretty good schedule up front. It’s I-20 baseball, is what I call it,” Broome said with a chuckle. “Our schedule, you’re going to face good competition every time we play. It’s set up that way. Our biggest thing is starting to gain some more confidence in what we do, and we’re starting to see that in some of our guys.”

The Vikings will go back to work next week, with a few extra days to work out the kinks before they play back-to-back home games against Clinton and Tensas Academy on March 4 and 5. The Region 6-6A opener is not until March 22 at Pearl.

“I’ve felt pretty good these last three games. I’m excited where we are. All three games we pitched it good enough to win, for sure,” Broome said. “We’ve just got to clean up on some of the little things. There’s work to do, but I feel like we’re getting close to really being a solid team top to bottom. We’re just working to get one percent better each day.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 139-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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